Mosquitos and caffeine kept me awake for most of last night. It’s surprisingly hot here in Belgium right now, not Colorado hot, but still warm. Sleeping is difficult. I brought a small fan with me from home but it started smoking and blew up within 30 seconds when I first plugged it in a month ago. Since there are no window screens on the windows, I try to leave the one to my room shut for as long as possible while I’m laying in bed, soaking into my sweat-drenched mattress. I think I spent so much time being damp last night that I started to prune. I opened the window eventually since the mosquitos had gotten into my room through the crack under the door, and the cool air did help, but the incessent buzzing by the increase of mosquito activity drove me mad. Like most nights, I ended up putting on my carpentry headphones to silence the noise and let the mosquitos bight me while I lay there, completely naked without even a sheet covering me. At least I can’t hear them. But when you’re that exposed to mosquitos, you begin worrying that they’ll get to your private parts and start biting where you’d prefer they not. It’s one thing to have an insect suck blood from your arm, it’s another to have it suck blood from your…is it gay if a male mosquito sucks blood from your…anyways, I usually end up covering that area with the corner of my sheet.
What was really keeping me awake was the massive jolt of caffeine I’d taken in yesterday’s race. The race was in Lessines again, with a different course that had a lot more climbing (at least for Belgium it was a lot). I got my legs warmed up with an attack over the top of the first climb, and kept the attacks flowing for the next three or four of the nine laps. Nothing was sticking for more than a lap, if that, and I decided to try to conserve a bit more and just follow what I thought were the dangerous moves. I didn’t want to be fully depleted like last race, just in case things got really hard in the end. The field was a bit bigger and stronger than Tuesday, but I was feeling stronger as well, and also less sick than Tuesday. It’s amazing what a couple days on the bike and a few extra days of recovering from an illness will get you.
With two laps to go I felt even more powerful and fresh than I had at the start of the race. Deep down I had that feeling that I was going to win, and with the way I was feeling at the end I knew there was a good possibility of it, as long as I didn’t miss out on the move that I was sure would go on one of the hills or the descents after them. I couldn’t contain myself, and attacked like crazy for two laps straight, hardly even feeling it. I hope this is just the beginning of some good form that will last for the rest of the time I’m here in Belgium.
I went again and again on the twisting, rolling, descent through one of the towns, normally a place where splits usually occurred and stuck for a while. Nothing stuck this time. I could have kept attacking, but decided to sit in the pack and rest for the final three kilometers to the finish, since the remaining pack of 50 still seemed motivated to keep things together for a field sprint. As luck would have it, the winning move of a handful of guys slipped off the front right by me once I was caught and three of them ended up just barely staying away to win. As we approached the final kilometer I’d picked out a guy who I knew was strong and thought would contest the sprint. I held his wheel until I realized we were still too far back. I moved up on the side through town. 700 meters to go. I went into the wind on the outside, up against a carnival of rides, food stands, and a pony ride. I continued coming around on the left, squeezing by with a foot or two separating me and the petting zoo. I braked and yelled when someone merged into me. I lost speed and my 15, and ended up 23rd (which is five euros of prize money less than a top 15). I was really pissed that the race had ended that way with me missing out on the little move at the end and then not even being there for the field sprint. I was pumped full of adrenaline and let it out with a roar and slammed my fist on bars after we crossed the line, angry that I’d done all that attacking and nothing had come of it. I looked for someone to punch. And then I calmed down. There’s another race on Saturday that has even more hills to weed out the guys sitting in…which, just now, I decided I shouldn’t race since my cold has taken turn for the worse after the race. It was just on the verge of being completely gone until I raced yesterday and Tuesday. This is a re-occurring theme. I have a big point to point race on Tuesday that I need to be healthy for. That is all.